In an attempt to woo more than 25 lakh ex-servicemen barely two months before the general elections, the Congress-led UPA government on Mondya announced that it has accepted the "one rank, one pension"(OROP) principle for the forces.
The mega announcement comes three days after Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi endorsed OROP after meeting a delegation of more than 1,000 ex-servicemen last Friday. In fact, Rahul Gandhi is expected to address a rally of ex-servicemen in Dehradun on February 22.
Finance minister P Chidambaram, while presenting its government's interim budget for the year 2014-2015, said, "Rs 500 crore will be transferred in 2014-15 for implementing the one rank one pension decision."
One rank one pension policy will ensure uniform pension for all armed forces personnel retiring at the same rank, and with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement.
At present there is a disparity in pensions received by those who retired before 2006, and those who retired post-2006. For example, a major general who retired in 2003 receives Rs 30,000 per month as pension while another officer holding same rank who retired in 2013 gets Rs39,000 per month as pension.
Under the 'one rank, one pension' rule, retired soldiers of the same rank and length of service will receive the same pension, regardless of when they retire. Currently, pensioners who retired before 2006 receive less pension than their counterparts, even their juniors.
Prime pinister Manmohan Singh said the subject had been addressed comprehensively and he was confident that "our forces, officers and jawans will welcome the announcement."
There are 13 lakh serving and 25 lakh retired military personnel in the country.
"On face of it, we welcome the move by the government. Though its a political move by the government barely two months before the general elections, but we need to analysis the exact implementation order.
Then only, we would be able to say concrete whether it is actually OROP which we have been fighting for past 40 years," said major general Satbir Singh.
Armed forces have been fighting for "one rank, one pension" demand for the past four decades.
In fact, many decorated veterans have returned their medals and some have even gone on hunger strikes to fight for it.
"We are very satisfied. Our long pending demands were finally fulfilled. A soldier never wanted to come on streets to protest against the government in favour of demands. But, we were forced to do so. Now,25 lakh ex-soldiers will get their due," Lt General Raj Kadyan, former deputy chief of army staff.
The BJP welcomed the announcement on one rank, one pension for the forces, but party veteran Jaswant Singh, a former defence minister and a retired soldier, raised doubts about its implementation.
"This doesn't fully address the concerns of the forces. The budget helps UPA's politics more than the economy," Singh told a news channel..
"Government's move to approve OROP for Armed Forces veterans is one of my most satisfying efforts. I pleaded and petitioned the Government for more than seven years seeking validation of OROP. Under my recommendation, the Petition's Committee on OROP was set up in 2011 to examine the case. The Committee had recommended grant of OROP and the constitution of separate Defence Pay Commission."Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Rajya Sabha MP, who have been taking up OROP issues on various plate forms.